We’re officially past the half-way point for the year and that means it’s time to stop and take stock of what we’ve gotten so far. 2019 has had a couple of pretty good games already with a lot more awesome stuff to come, the likes of Doom Eternal promising a hell of an end to the year. That’s the future, though.
So, what’s the cream of the crop thus far? As always my list won’t contain Nintendo games or mobile titles since I focus on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Do also keep in mind that I can’t play everything, so certain titles might be missing, such as Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
With that out of the way here are what I currently hold to be the 9 best games of 2019 so far.
Devil May Cry 5
Devil May Cry 5’s combat is like a blood-spattered piece of art-work painted by a crazy artist using his own sweat and tears to water down the paint. It is sublime on nearly every conceivable level. It’s buttery smooth, wholly effortless, simple to learn and yet mind-numbingly hard to master. And when you start to get good at it you feel like such a fucking bad-ass.
If the fighting wasn’t somehow enough then the absurdity of everything else most certainly is. Devil May Cry is bat-shit insane in all the best ways and Devil May Cry 5 knows it. The story is both engaging for fans and just plain funny because of how absurd it all is. It’s like someone took a soap opera, tossed in some demons and then covered the whole thing in piles cheese.
All in all, I’m pretty damn pumped about a potential Devil May Cry 6.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled
Kart racers represent the purity of games, I reckon. Cutesy characters atop little karts belting around tracks while trying to murder each other with various weapons. That’s the sweet innocence of video games right there.
Beenox did a hell of a job bringing Crash Team Racing back to life. The graphical treatment alone is superb. It looks like I remember the game being, even though I know in my heart that the Crash Team Racing looked nowhere near as good as this. Then Beenox tossed in kart customisation, multiplayer and Grand Prix events for good measure.
But of course it’s the gameplay where Crash Team Racing shines. It’s a testement to design of the game that Beenox didn’t change the racing that much, instead just refining it here or there. The power sliding feels great, the track designs are superb and there’s a higher skill ceiling than most other kart racers. I perhaps over-confidently pronounced Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled better than Marion Kart 8, but I believe it to be true. It’s a hell of a game and if they sort out its few problems then it will be a masterpiece.
Sometimes you just want to kick back and enjoy building something from the ground up. Anno 1800 was my introduction to the franchise so I’m in no way qualified to compare it to its ancestors, but taken on its own I found Anno 1800 to be deeply engrossing.
I think what I wound up liking the most is how the economy all links together and how you wind up needing to spread to other islands to feed that economy. When you hop over to a new place it’s like building a whole new city all over again before then setting up trade routes between your new town and the old one. Once you have a complex set of routes shipping goods from island to island it feels pretty satisfying.
Also satisfying is just buying out the opposition. I don’t know what that makes me so happy, but buying up shares in opponent’s islands brings a smile to my face.
Sony really have been on a roll with their exclusive games and while Days Gone might not have hit the same highs as the likes of God of War or Marvel’s Spider-Man it’s still a damn good zombie game in its own right and serves to further cement the fact that Sony destroyed Microsoft this generation in terms of exclusives.
What sticks out about Days Gone to me the most isn’t tackling the big hordes of zombies or the guns or even the story. No, it’s cruising the desolate roads of a world in ruin on my bike, just taking it all in. Fast-travel was always an option but I’d typically choose to ride to the next goal, maybe stopping to quickly investigate a site or help out a stranger.
Main character Deacon might seem like a generic tough guy on the outside but he’s a surprisingly deep character. He never recovered from the loss of his wife and only has a single friend left in the world and spends a lot of the game trying to keep that friend alive. Deacon is terrified and close to mentally snapping for much of the game, and he tries to hide it from the outside world. He doesn’t want to seem weak and in doing so massively overcompensates, and yet people like him. He can’t hide everything and people manage to see beyond his exterior.
DiRT Rally 2.0
The thing that DiRT Rally 2.0 does better than almost any other game is that it constantly makes you feel like you’re on the very edge of your abilities. The loose surfaces, the powerful cars and the fantastic sense of speed all put you about 0.1 of a second away from complete disaster. It creates a thrill that most other racing games can’t hope.
The only thing missing is VR support. The first DiRT Rally is immense in VR, though you’ve got to have some good VR legs under you to handle it, I reckon. VR support for DiRT Rally 2.0 is coming, though, and I frankly cannot wait. The feeling of being in the car and holding on for dear freaking life will be awesome.
Aside from that, though, DiRT Rally 2.0 is the best kind of racing game: one that’s a little bit scary.
Battlefleet Gothic: Armada 2
They’re really onto something with this little Battlefleet Gothic series. The first game served up some great tactical space battles set in the Warhammer universe, but the sequel expanded on the idea greatly. A big new turn-based campaign built on the original with a lot more opportunity to flex the old brain matter. There’re planets to capture, resources to manage, numerous enemy factions and fleets that need to be built and maintained. As I said in my review, a little more meat here would have been welcomed, but it’s still a solid layer of extra strategy.
The battles are just as entertaining. Watching the massive ships clash makes the sci-fi geek in me a little sexually aroused. Don’t judge me, alright.
Gothic 2 wasn’t a massively different sequel, but I think it did enough to move the franchise forward. Since launch a new Chaos campaign was released as paid DLC, but there’s also been a free campaign update that added in a bunch of new stuff including secondary objectives.
The Division 2
I wasn’t really the biggest fan of the original Division but Ubisoft went back to the drawing board, drank a bunch of coffee and thought about what worked and what didn’t. The result feels like a more confident game. The Division 2 knows what it wants to be.
Much like I talked about in Days Gone some of my best memories in The Division 2 stem from isolation. Through it’s impressive graphics and level of detail The Division 2 creates a beautiful disaster, a city in ruin where humans are finding ways to survive and even thrive. As you walk through the streets you can soak up the atmosphere, the sense of a world gone wrong that still has hope.
On the gameplay side of things the combat get heavily improved, the loot is more engaging, the mission designs are stronger and there’s just loads to do. I’ve not been back in a while so I can’t comment on the state of the game, but when I left it The Division 2 was a hell of a solo or multiplayer experience.
Mordhau has some big problems with balance and a lack of maps. I’ve stopped playing it now, but I also can’t ignore just how much time I sunk into it and how much fun it brought me.
If you weren’t aware it’s a 32v32 multiplayer game where medieval knights fight over objectives while smashing each other in the face with various types of weapons. It has some big flaws but amidst all that brutal chaos there’s heaps of raw fun to be had, from the superb combat mechanics to the fact that so many players in one place tends to lead to crazy shit happening. I’ve seen people crushed by horses falling off of ramparts, honourable duels in the middle of battles, rock concerts held by lute players and countless examples of non-verbal communication that is somehow both utterly inane yet perfectly understandable.
The big question is whether the developers can keep the game going. They’ve suffered recent, frankly undeserved lashings from the media and have a very vocal community who want to know what’s next for Mordhau. I think the developers are being assaulted by their own success, unprepared for how well the game has done and all the demands that come from it. The gaming community can be a strange place that decries crunch in development and wants quality content, yet still demands new stuff right now. The developers are a small team, so will they be able to feed their audience before that audience begins to wander away?
Blood & Truth
The second Sony exclusive game on this list, but this one is for the Playstation VR. Blood & Truth is a Cockney crime caper that literally puts you into the boots of Ryan Marks. It’s a wild ride from start to finish and while it might not be a system seller, it’s still a bloody good reason to break out the PS VR headset.
What can be irritating about VR games is that reviews and even videos of them don’t actually do them justice. It’s hard to describe the feeling VR can provide of actually being their, of actually holding a gun and actually pulling the trigger. While VR might not completely fool the sense it does make it so much easier to suspend disbelief and just immerse yourself into the game.
Thankfully there’s some actual good game design under all that immersion. Blood & Truth has fun shootouts, absolutely great acting and some nice moments to just play around, like firing off a machine gun while also playing about with a DJ console.